Council catches people giving away cash to dodge care fees
PUBLISHED: 16:00 02 October 2017
People trying to avoid paying for care by giving away their assets have almost cost North Somerset Council more than £1million – before they were caught out by the local authority.
The council could have had to fork out £1.3million to fund individuals care costs, but it found 64 people deliberately gave away cash or property to evade paying care bills in the past five years.
A spokesman said people ‘cannot expect the council to fund their care if they have deliberately deprived themselves’ of assets.
Under the care act, the council has the power to perform a means test to see how much people should pay for their care. Part of the test investigates whether a person has deliberately given away their assets to dodge care fees.
If someone’s assets are valued at more than £23,250 they are expected to pay for their own care, but the state assists with funding if the value is below this threshold – perhaps tempting people to reduce the value of their assets.
If the council finds someone has deliberately reduced their assets and is due to underpay for their care, the council can increase its charges to ensure the correct amount is paid.
This power has been used 64 times by the council since 2012.
A spokesman said: “People are free to spend their income or capital as they wish but they cannot then expect the authority to fund their care if they have deliberately deprived themselves.”
An investigation by The Telegraph found from a small sample of local authorities, North Somerset has used the power much more than others.
But the spokesman emphasised it is not a money-making scheme, and essential to ensuring fairness.
They added: “It is not necessarily true that we use this power more than other authorities, possibly we have been better at recording the deprivation findings.
“The charging policy is applied fairly and those who should pay for their care do pay and other citizens should not be penalised.
“It’s important to understand that we have not scooped back £1.3million. That amount has been is included in our assessments and increased the amount we charge service users.
“Sometimes this will mean they have to pay the full cost of their care, other times it will increase the amount they are assessed to pay but they will still receive some assistance from us. This is important to the overall affordability of the care system.”